The Last Battle has been fought, and Harry Potter has won. The price, however, has been high. Nearly every person Harry cared for is dead, maimed, or otherwise injured. The magical culture of Bri...
Chapter XXX Saturday, December 4, 1993
"I take it you've finished at least one plan for our escape," Harry said to Hermione. The pair had just snuck into the Room of Requirement for a little private time.
"I'm just glad you've never argued about my coming with you," Hermione said, sitting on the over-stuffed sofa which had appeared and patting it so Harry would sit next to her.
Harry shrugged. "We're bonded, my love. Why would I be that foolish?"
Hermione leaned forward and kissed his nose. "I'm just glad you aren't. As for the plan, I have finished, but we'll need a little help," Hermione admitted.
"Who will we need?" Harry asked.
Hermione looked a bit worried as she said, "The Headmaster, Snape, Winky, and Dobby."
Harry sighed. "Do we really need Snape?"
"We need either Snape or Slughorn," Hermione said simply. "We don't know anyone else with the necessary skills, except perhaps Dumbledore. After all, we are going to have to change our appearances if we're going to have any privacy over the next few years. Now Snape can produce the basic potions, and I can finish off the details. He'll know we've changed, but won't know how. I know you don't like Professor Snape, and you've told me why you don't like him. Still, since he is already in on your secret, it's safer"
"How much will we change?" Harry asked.
"If this new theory of mine works, we'll grow taller, and we should put on a little more mass, as in muscle, since we'll be taking some concentrated protein and nutrient potions as well. We should go through about a two year, controlled growth spurt in less than two days. It will be tiring, but at least the bone growth will be permanent. Our features will change, but over about a seven year period, it will mostly wear off, but not completely. People we're around that entire time won't notice that we're changing back towards our real selves. Someone observant, like Padma or Remus, would certainly wonder at the end of say four years if it might be us, but for the first two years at least, they wouldn't recognize us. In addition, I'm letting my hair grow a lot this year. Afterwards, I'll wear it short. You can change your hair with your limited metamorph abilities, and your eye color as well. Too bad you can't do more."
"Actually," Harry said, "there is one other thing I can do."
"And what's that?" Hermione asked, curious.
"Apparently, I don't really need glasses," Harry said.
That puzzled Hermione, to say the least. "What? I thought your magic was changing that any way."
"It might be that, or it might be this other reason Tonks thought of. For some reason, my subconscious might have used my morphing abilities to make me need glasses, just like I didn't need a haircut." Harry shrugged. "She thinks I was I was probably trying to recreate my dad." Harry's hair went flat and then sprung back up. "I don't even know if my hair should be like this or flat, or if my face is right. Maybe I shouldn't even look as much like my dad as I do, although Tonks thinks it would be close no matter what. But after all these years, my bone structure and tissues have adapted to this shape no matter what."
"I wonder if that will cause any problems," Hermione pondered.
"Probably not, as I'm not all that complete a metamorph as Tonks is in any case," Harry said. "The important thing is, by Christmas I will have trained my eyes to be better than normal. My glasses will have plain safety glass in them, so I won't need contacts. With flat dark brown or dark auburn hair, blue eyes, slightly different features, and no glasses, who will be able to tell it's me? especially if I'm a few inches taller?"
"I suppose Remus could tell you're you by scent," Hermione pointed out.
"True," Harry had to agree. "Back on subject, I guess we'll need the Headmaster to fake our records."
"Exactly, and he has some contacts in the Government." Hermione's expression changed. "And he's even better at memory charms than Lockhart." Even after all this time, only a small fraction of Lockhart's victims had had their memories restored. Lockhart was a poor wizard in many ways, but he did know his memory charms. He had been forced to give up his alleged career in chasing Dark Creatures (and half the profits from his old books) and was now making even more money off of a line of hair care products.
Harry nodded grimly. He knew that the Headmaster had memory charmed any number of school and welfare people to keep his abuse at the hands of the Dursleys quiet. Dumbledore could fake them a paper trail in the Muggle world with some guidance.
"And Dobby and Winky?"
"That involves one other item we need, one from the Department of Mysteries. With a little help, we can lay down an alibi, so that the people we become won't be connected to the people we were." Hermione finished outlining her ideas.
"Hermione!" Harry said, pretending to be shocked. "Having house elves steal? I am shocked!"
"Actually, all things considered, they'll have the time-turner back before it can be missed," Hermione pointed out.
"You are brilliant as well as beautiful," Harry said.
"And you're as sensible as you are handsome."
"Thank you," Harry said. "Still, that doesn't get you out of sitting with me for the Ravenclaw-Slytherin game." Hermione pouted.
Friday, December 17, 1993
"You'll be happy to know that everything is going quite normally, Madame Noir," the Swiss physician said. He knew there was something very odd about his patient, but as it didn't seem to be affecting the health of her baby, he didn't particularly care.
As Bellatrix left the office smiling, she let her rage come back towards the surface. How she loathed entering the Muggle world. How she would have loved to have taken those cold steel gynecological instruments and used them on the old Muggle healer in ways not envisioned by any sane person.
Prudence managed to calm her somewhat, and she decided there were some vermin in the deserted building she was using as an apparation point she could torture instead.
After her initial (if slight) interest, Bellatrix now resented the baby growing inside of her, its connection to her beloved Master not withstanding. Potter had been firm in refusing to fight her while she was pregnant, which would have been a handicap for her but since she knew she would be sacrificing the child and herself in some manner, that did not matter to her. It would have made Potter look bad, dueling a pregnant woman, and she resented that he had the sense to refuse. Worse, that he known in the first place, but there was little she or her Master could do about that except fume.
The Dark pair had their plan worked out, at least as far the results -- the execution of their plan would have to wait upon events. They had both learned that the more detailed a plan was, the more likely it was to fail.
Bella needed to take Harry quickly and then set him to bleeding to death. Once he was beyond help, she would kill herself. Harry would then die and the two seconds, Sirius and Riddle, would confront each other. Using the life forces of Bella and Harry and the Dark magic from killing Sirius Black, Riddle could make one final Horcrux (he hoped). That would overcome (Voldemort believed) the Prophecy he had stolen, although he believed it likely it had been at least partially faked (as it had).
He would be Voldemort once again.
He would then disappear from the world for a hundred years. Then, Voldemort would start making appearances, perhaps every two or three years, for a hundred or so years, building his legend, building his fame as the sorcerer who had conquered death.
Then, he would recreate the Death Eaters.
Since Potter would not fight right away, the pair had considered aborting the fetus. They had not, only because Potter was, after all, concerned with it. Once the child was born, it was to be given unharmed to a (somewhat) 'neutral' party. Once they had been told the name of the guardians, even Voldemort and Bella withheld any objections. The child would be raised without knowledge of its parents until the age of sixteen, and then would be told all.
In their egotism, neither Voldemort nor Bellatrix seriously considered that their child would do anything but come to Voldemort's aid, just as Tom Riddle had embraced the most extreme version of Salazar Slytherin's agenda.
After that, the two sides had come to terms for the duel very quickly, which confused Voldemort and Bellatrix, who had not really believed this plan would work. The duel would be in late August of 1994, and would be announced late in the day after the students left Hogwarts. When they had started this plan in motion, the pair had nearly decided that the faux Prophecy had been just that, but now they wondered if there might not be some truth to it. Still, Voldemort was convinced that even if it had been totally true, his new plan would work around it.
Bella would have preferred getting rid of the growth inside her and having the whole thing over by the end of the year, but her constraints on the matter were made by Voldemort. He knew that if he were to rebuild his reputation over time, he needed to follow wizarding custom to some small extent. The youth of the primary opponent would be damaging enough without rushing into things and without sacrificing another infant.
An added incentive to agree to the terms was an appeal to Voldemort's vanity. The Quidditch World Cup was being held in Britain, and hundreds of thousands of fans from across the world were expected. Voldemort was assured of an international audience. He had even sworn an oath that should he win the duel, he would immediately leave the British Isles for at least one year, to insure that international audience would come to see his power.
The small group of people who had some idea of what Harry was up against (the Dumbledores, Diggle, Moody, Sirius, Remus, Snape, Flitwick, McGonagall, and Tonks) met with Harry and Hermione in a small room off the Headmaster's office Christmas night. The final terms of the duel had been worked out to everyone's satisfaction. Riddle was still puzzled over how easily Harry and the adults around him had agreed to the fight. He had basically again come to the conclusion that Dumbledore and the others were simply putting too much faith into the Prophecy. He had correctly decided, on very little evidence, that the ending of the Prophecy he had stolen from the Hall of Prophecies was fake, but now suspected that Dumbledore had only seen the faked Prophecy.
Of the group that met that night, only Dumbledore, Snape, Sirius, and Remus had known that Harry and Hermione were planning on disappearing after the duel was over. Harry and Hermione had to spend over half an hour explaining his reasons. Only Snape was really happy with the basic decision, but by the time Harry and Hermione had finished, the others could only agree. Of the group, only Dumbledore already knew where they were planning on going, and only he and Snape knew about the growth and aging formulas Hermione had thought up and which Dumbledore and Snape were creating together (with a fair amount of research input from Hermione, as well as the finishing touches). All but Dumbledore currently believed they were merely planning on skipping one year of schooling with Harry trying for two, while in reality they were hoping to skip two (although Snape would come to suspect this). Both were putting many hours into advanced readings across the magical curriculum, and Hermione was trying to get some extra basic work in Muggle subjects as well.
Sirius was slightly resentful that he wasn't being given more information, but he also knew that was largely his fault for his dealings with Lucius Malfoy. Sirius was still up in the air about how he felt about the magical world. He was certainly against the traditional Pure-Blood agenda, but the more he learned about the Muggle world as an adult, the more he wanted to keep the magical and Muggle worlds separate.
As for Remus, he understood that as much as he wanted to know where Harry and Hermione were going, it would be easier to keep it a secret from Sirius and even Tonks if he didn't know. Dumbledore did promise to set up some form of communications between Harry, Hermione, and their their friends and mentors. When Moody objected that anything could be traced, Dumbledore put Moody in charge of outlining options which Dumbledore could use later on.
After the meeting, Harry stayed with Dumbledore and Moody, discussing the Triwizard Tournament. Harry encouraged them to keep the same three Tasks that he had faced, while pointing out how the Tasks might be improved for excitement while if anything lessening the danger. One example of this was Gillyweed. While native to the Mediterranean, Professor Sprout would be adding it to the green house where exotic aquatic plants were grown. There was a list of all plants grown which students could access, and which would be available to the visiting students as well. It would be up to the champions to put the ideas together. Harry also made certain that the clue for the Second Task was a bit less threatening. Smaller improvements were made for the First Task (substituting fake eggs to insure none would be broken for example, while the real eggs were kept safe) and Harry suggested a number of possible traps for the Third Task.
Harry also pleaded with Dumbledore not to allow Hagrid to illegally breed the Blast-Ended Skrewts during the up-coming summer. While no student would ever know about it, Harry felt that it was an important contribution to the safety of Hogwarts' students.
Harry and Hermione were the only Gryffindors staying over that Yule break. The pair therefore cuddled down together on a sofa they had transfigured to they could easily lie down together. "It's not going to be this easy getting together once we leave Hogwarts," Hermione said, nearly pouting.
"Hermione, whichever school we end up at, we are hardly going to be the first couple there," Harry said. "They would have figured out ways to snuggle at some point. We'll just need to figure out who we can trust enough to ask."
"I suppose you're right," Hermione agreed. "We should ask Sirius how difficult it was to make the Marauders' Map."
"Good point," Harry agreed. Then he smiled. "Maybe I should ask Sirius and you should ask Remus, just to compare their answers."
"Are you that mistrustful of Sirius?"
"When Sirius was a student, he knew he hated what his family stood for," Harry said simply. "He saw the Muggle world as a source of fun. He never understood how dangerous the Muggle world could be, either on its own terms or in relation to the magical world. His parents loathed Muggles for all the wrong reasons, therefore he thought Muggles must be good."
"Well, they aren't bad," Hermione stated.
"The Dursleys to the contrary, that's true," Harry agreed. "The point is, people are people. Some people are good, some people are bad, and most people seem to be basically decent but rather short-sighted and somewhat selfish, unless outside pressures send them in one direction or other."
"Isn't that a bit cynical?" Hermione asked.
"I don't think so," Harry said. "It's not that I think people are basically bad, honest. I think people are basically more on the good side than the bad. But most of us are pretty much concerned with our own affairs and problems, and we often let bad behavior of others go by unless it affects us. We can't fix everything, so it's sometimes easy not to try and fix enough. Sirius is a good person. He doesn't dislike, let alone hate, Muggles. He's just been able to recover his magical roots without his family's bigotry, and realizes that the magical world could easily be overwhelmed by the Muggle."
"Well, I can't really argue with that," Hermione had to agree. "I like what I've seen in Australia, and what I've read about Australia, New Zealand, and North America; how they're trying to bring Muggle ideas into the magical mainstream while allowing the Traditionalists room to honor their full customs."
"But it's all new," Harry pointed out. "It could all backfire, even if we both hope it works."
Hermione sighed, and hugged Harry tightly. "Life just isn't ever easy, I suppose," she said.
"I suppose not," Harry agreed.
"Harry. . . ."
"Let's not wait until your birthday," Hermione said in a small voice. "We're going to be worried about the duel then. If we do it tonight, we can make it extra special."
"It will be special whenever we 'do it' for the first time, but I know what you mean." Harry smiled and for once looked his mental age rather than just his physical age. "I love you, Mrs. Potter."
"You've never called me that before," Hermione said breathlessly.
"We've been bonded for well over a year," Harry said. "We're legally married, but once we consummate the marriage, well, that's the last step to making things official, other than making a public announcement."
"Then claim me as Mrs. Potter," Hermione nearly begged.
Five minutes later, the pair lay entwined, sweaty and content. "Happy Christmas, Mrs. Potter."
"Happy Christmas, husband," Hermione answered.
"You seem restless."
"I loathe having this growth," Bellatrix growled. "Just three more months and I can be rid of this."
"I take it you have no desire to raise the child after Potter dies," Voldemort asked mildly. Bellatrix shuddered. The Cruciatus was out during the pregnancy, but Voldemort was endlessly inventive.
"I shall, of course, if you command it," Bellatrix whimpered.
"We shall see," Voldemort stated regally. While he certainly did not want a small child, let alone and infant, around, it would be necessary to teach the child her heritage. No matter what the deal made with Potter, the child could always be found and reclaimed.